What’s new in food: Chef’s Experience Dinner with Cleophus Hethington

FLAVORS OF THE DIASPORA: Chef Cleophus Hethington will cook a four-course dinner for the AVL Food Series on Thursday, April 25, at The Mule. Photo courtesy of Shay & Co.

If it’s been a minute since you’ve experienced chef Cleophus Hethington’s culinary expression of the African diaspora, mark your calendar for 5:30-8 p.m. Thursday, April 25, when the finalist for the 2022 James Beard Emerging Chef award returns to Asheville for a one-night stand at Devil’s Foot Beverage Co.’s The Mule. The Chef’s Experience Dinner is the April event in the recurring AVL Food Series presented by Devil’s Foot Beverage Co. and Shay Brown’s Shay & Co.

Hethington became known to Asheville as chef de cuisine when he landed at Benne on Eagle in August 2021, succeeding opening chef Ashleigh Shanti and Malcolm McMillian. During his tenure, the Miami-raised Hethington entirely flipped the menu, introducing dishes like Haitian griot, Ghanaian red red and pepperpot stew from Guyana. He pulled inspiration from South America, the Caribbean and Africa, and paid homage to his late grandmother with his Grandma Daisy Mae sweet potato pie.

Hethington departed Benne in June 2022, returned to Miami for a position as chef de cuisine at Zak the Baker (a James Beard Award finalist for Best Bakery in 2023), and has most recently been working in Charlotte. He hasn’t been entirely absent from Asheville, popping back into town as a featured chef for events at Cultura, The Blind Pig Supper Club and Chow Chow 2023’s James Beard Dinner.

After hearing about the debut Chef’s Experience Dinner with chef Michelle Bailey in March, Hethington reached out to Brown, and she jumped at the opportunity to feature him.

“Shay asked me to prepare four courses plus an amuse-bouche for the cocktail hour,” Hethington says. “The dinner will focus on the African diaspora, which is what people know me for.”

Among the dishes will be a Senegalese-inspired lamb dibi, which he describes as lamb marinated overnight, skewered, grilled and served with three dipping sauces, including a collard green kimchi jus.

“The second course is based off things I grew up eating in South Florida and the Caribbean that are still part of my diet,” he explains. “Cassava braised in sake, turmeric and saffron with a Cuban coffee take on red-eye gravy and jamon.”

The third course pulls from a visit to the Yucatan peninsula — a fish dish with rice pancakes and greens. Daisy Mae’s sweet potato pie will conclude the meal.

Each event in the AVL Food Series designates a nonprofit for a portion of proceeds. Hethington has chosen EatWell Exchange, whose mission is to empower low-income communities to eat a nutritious diet within their own food culture.

Tickets for the Chef’s Experience are $127.50 with wine pairings; $97.50 for dinner only with cocktails available separately. In addition to alcohol-based options, The Mule offers an inclusive zero-proof menu of nonalcoholic beer, wine and cocktails. 

The Mule at Devil’s Foot Beverage Co. is at 131 Sweeten Creek Road. For details and tickets, visit avl.mx/dkc.

A threat to Southside Community Farm

Southside Community Farm, a Black-led urban farm formed by residents to address neighborhood food insecurity, is in danger of losing its land and seeks support from community members. A resolution brought to the March 27 Housing Authority of the City of Asheville board of directors meeting proposed dismantling the farm’s primary growing space, which is on HACA-owned land, to make way for a youth activity area.

The resolution states that the farm, which occupies around half an acre behind HACA’s Arthur R. Edington Education and Career Center on Livingston Street, “does not provide a direct benefit to the residents of the HACA in a significant enough manner to justify its use of the HACA property.”

Established in 2014, Southside Community Farm focuses on growing and distributing fresh food at no charge to local residents and offers educational programs for all ages. It also operates a free community refrigerator and hosts a tailgate market the first Sunday of each month May-October for vendors who identify as people of color.

“We want HACA to preserve Southside Community Farm, to not pass this resolution and to ensure that the community has access to vital resources the farm provides,” says farm manager Chloe Moore. “We are not opposed to more playground space in the neighborhood, but when there is a playground right down the street at Herb Watts Park, it would be a huge mistake to destroy the farm.”

Moore urges those wishing to advocate for the farm to sign its petition with positive comments of support and to attend the next HACA board of directors meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, at the Edington Center, 133 Livingston St.

For more details and to sign the petition, visit avl.mx/dkx.

Souper bowl fundraiser

Soup or salad, that is, and a beautiful handmade ceramic bowl to boot. On Sunday, April 21, Bountiful Bowls will be staged 1-5 p.m. outside the atrium of the Sherrill Center at UNC Asheville. The event is free to attend, but the sale of bowls is a fundraiser for Bountiful Cities, the Asheville-based nonprofit dedicated to sustainable agriculture and long-term food security.

Buy a bowl in advance or on-site (prices are on a sliding scale), then fill it with “stone soup” or panzanella salad made with donated, upcycled produce to honor Food Waste Reduction Month in Asheville and Buncombe County. For $25, attendees can also register for a cooking class taught by plant-based nutrition expert and professor Amy Joy Lanou that will explore techniques for reducing food waste and preparing delicious dishes with local produce.

Firefly Valley Pottery will lead a hands-on experience with clay, and the UNC Asheville Student Environmental Center will conduct activities celebrating Earth Day.

The UNC Asheville Sherrill Center is at 227 Campus Drive. For more information and to register, visit  avl.mx/dk6.

Spirited support

Asheville-area restaurants are once again activating the Benevolent Spirits fundraising campaign through Sunday, May 12, to support the ongoing work of World Central Kitchen. The global, food-focused disaster relief nonprofit run by celebrity chef José Andrés lost seven team members in early April to an Israeli military strike in Gaza.

Asheville restaurateurs Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani Restaurant Group and Katie Button of Katie Button Restaurant Group announced the new campaign via social media on April 9. Participating bars and restaurants in Asheville and around the U.S. are offering featured Benevolent Spirits cocktails and nonalcoholic drinks for which $1 from each sale will be donated to WCK.

In the past, Benevolent Spirits campaigns have supported the Building Markets nonprofit feeding survivors of the 2023 earthquakes in Syria and Turkey, World Central Kitchen’s work to feed refugees in the Ukraine and other efforts.

For more details and a list of participating businesses, visit avl.mx/dl2.

Tee up against hunger

Contrary to Mark Twain’s dismissal of golf as a “good walk spoiled,” Food Connection is offering a good day for a good cause with its second Golf Against Hunger fundraiser on Monday, April 22, at the Omni Grove Park Inn. Participation includes 18 holes of golf (golf cart included, no walking required!), complimentary beer, wine and soda all day, a catered buffet lunch, prizes and swag. Registration is $200 per person.

Food Connection is a local nonprofit that rescues surplus professionally prepared food, repacks it into meal-sized containers and distributes it to communities in need.

Omni Grove Park Inn is at 290 Macon Ave. To register, visit avl.mx/dk7.

Dining for dollars

On Thursday, April 25, nearly 50 Asheville restaurants will participate in Western North Carolina AID Project’s 22nd annual Dining Out for Life, a partnership that shines a light on local restaurants and raises funds for WNCAP. The organization provides care, medical case management, housing assistance, prevention education and outreach across 18 counties in WNC in the ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS.

Participating restaurants donate 20% of the day’s sales to WNCAP, and diners will have the opportunity on-site to contribute directly to WNCAP.

For a list of DOFL restaurants, visit avl.mx/dk8.

Spring flours

Carolina Ground’s upcoming pop-up market — 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday, April 21, at its facility in Hendersonville — will offer ingredients for home bakers as well as already-baked goodies for those who would rather dig right in. In addition to Carolina Ground’s locally grown and ground flours, cornmeal, polenta and grits, there will be baked goods, eggs, honey and sorghum along with coffee, botanical-dyed yarns, books and more. Vendors will include Beeswax + Butter, Milk Glass Pie, OWL Bakery, West First Bakehouse, Bryson Homestead and Independent Bean Roasters.

Carolina Ground is at 1237 Shipp St., Hendersonville. For details, visit avl.mx/pry0.

Down to Earth Day

Celebrate Earth Day with a feast at Bargello restaurant 6:30-9:30 p.m. Monday, April 22. Executive chef Tyler Slade will source from local farmers and purveyors including Sunburst Trout, Three Graces Dairy, Dr. King’s Bison Farm and Blue Ridge Rabbit Meat Co. to create five courses that will be paired with beverages from Sideways Farm & Brewery. Tickets are $95 per person.

Bargello is at 7 Patton Ave. To reserve seats, visit avl.mx/dka.

Cheers to Hendersonville

Wineries, cideries and a meadery are pouring the juice for Hendersonville’s 2024 Cider, Wine & Dine Weekend, Friday, April 19-Sunday, April 21. Eleven locations will offer a busy slate of activities that include tours, tastings, live music, chocolate, snacks, s’mores by the fire, a seated dinner, helicopter tours of the vineyards and — as expected in the Blue Ridge Mountains — hikes and yoga.

For a schedule of events and locations, visit avl.mx/cl4.

Brew, too

Whatever brew you do — beer or coffee — you can fill up at the Appalachian Mountain Brewery taproom in Mills River, which has dedicated a permanent space for Trail Marker Coffee Co.’s coffee trailer. Get your morning started or perk up your afternoon slump (7 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday-Saturday) with a double shot espresso, latte, chai latte, fruit smoothie and a baked good from the Trail Marker window. Co-owner and operator Jared Edwards describes the venture as a marriage of his love of coffee and mountain living; the company’s logo is an illustration of a cairn topped with a coffee mug. TMCC sources its coffee solely from Boone’s Bald Guy Brewing.

In addition to AMB’s year-round and special series brews, hard ciders, wine, house cocktails and Athletic brand nonalcoholic beer, the brewery offers a menu of small bites, sandwiches, sides and salads starting at 11 a.m. seven days a week.

Appalachian Mountain Brewery and Trail Marker Coffee Co. are at  46 N. Mills River Road, Mills River. For more details, visit http://avl.mx/dkq.

Barn Door changes course

Barn Door Ciderworks in Fairview launches its 2024 season on Friday, April 19, with a new operating model. The taproom will be open only the third weekend of each month with planned activities. Fridays will feature live music, Saturdays will offer popular cider and cheese flights, and on Sundays, Little Oven Pizza Truck will be making wood-fired pizzas.

Barn Door produces barrel-aged dry cider on-site and, in addition to its cider, serves small bites, beer, wine and nonalcoholic beverages in its taproom. Hourlong tasting tours have also been added for visitors interested in learning about the behind-the-scenes operations.

Barn Door Ciderworks is at 23 Lytle Road, Fletcher.  For more information, visit avl.mx/9ni.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Kay West
Kay West was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, StyleBlueprint Nashville, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. To kick off 2019 she put Tennessee in her rear view mirror, drove into the mountains of WNC, settled in West Asheville and appreciates that writing offers the opportunity to explore and learn her new home. She looks forward to hiking trails, biking greenways, canoeing rivers, sampling local beer and cheering the Asheville Tourists.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.